I love Adelaide. We first came to the capital of South Australia four years ago, and someone asked us why. It is just that little bit less visited than Melbourne, Sydney, or even Hobart. Adelaide is a small city where, in the suburbs twenty minutes away from downtown, you can see the night stars. If I thought my blog had a bigger readership than it does, I wouldn’t encourage you to go there!
We were in Adelaide for two reasons. One was that it is the starting place for a south-north trip through the outback, something neither of us had done before. But our main reason was friends. We had a few people to catch up with in Adelaide, and some of them were kind enough to let us stay in their home.
I mentioned that back when T. was just a holiday snapshot to me, I made some South Australian friends on a wine tour in snowy Ontario. Andrew and Celia were those friends, and it’s no wonder they were interested in Canadian wines; South Australia has the best vineyards and wines in this part of the world. Last time we were here we checked out the Barossa Valley with Celia. Back then, none of us knew that James would be joining us.
|Lawnmowing--a good habit to encourage|
Here’s something you might find surprising about Australia: Air conditioning is not as widespread as you would think. We’ve visited a few places that had it, but generally it’s an air conditioner in the European sense—a unit in one room that you turn on as needed. Generally, summer in Australia seems to mean what it meant when I was growing up: If you’re hot, turn on a fan.
As it happened, Adelaide had unusually cool weather the week we visited. Our first stop was at an Airbnb, hosted by people we didn’t know, but now feel we do. He is the kind of Aussie who actually says “fair dinkum”; she is originally from Northern Ireland. His father came from Latvia and he’s seen his last name on the wall of a 12th-century castle in Riga. You can imagine the conversations we had over a beer!
From their neighborhood we walked past kids practicing in the ball park, constellations visible in the sky overhead. (Did I mention I love Adelaide?) We found a Chinese/Thai restaurant called Fu Lin’s. Mr. Fu, I presume, was very eager to chat to us in his limited English: about Theresa May, Margaret Thatcher, Hong Kong, Communist China, “Donald Trong.” It was from him that I learned that the U.S. secretary of state was gone, and his laughing conclusion: “OK, yeah. America!”
It was Mad March, the month of the year to visit the city, as our hosts assured us. In addition to other festivals in March, the Fringe was going on. Adelaide’s Fringe, I discovered, is second only to Edinburgh’s in the festivals of the world. We just had to check it out.
I’ve never been to the Edinburgh Festival, but I have a hard time believing its Fringe could be as roomy and accessible as Adelaide’s. This is just an easy city to get around. You’d have to be more easily confused than I am to get lost in a city outlined by “North Terrace,” "East Terrace,” etc. Then again, I did just get told by a visitors’ center guy that the sunglasses I was looking for were on my head…
Anyway, T. found that there were still tickets available to see the Soweto Gospel Choir celebrate the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. After our visit to South Africa, I expected great things from these folks, and I was not disappointed. They seemed to sing in most of South Africa’s eleven official languages and I barely understood the English songs, but it mattered little, because it was all music and rhythm. Most of the audience was white and, I'm afraid, stereotypically so (the choir had to encourage us to clap), but a couple of gay guys and their woman friend in front of us had difficulty staying in their seats. In fact one of the guys kept getting up, and I realized he was going into a back row to dance! It was the penultimate number before the choir succeeded in getting the rest of us up on our feet and swaying, more or less gracefully. I told the guy, “I’m so glad you’re here.”
The Adelaide Fringe is part festival, part hokey carnival act. So after the sublime Soweto choir, we slipped into a tent to see Tianna the traveling Canadian. She’s an escapologist, the only one in the world to do this particular stunt. In between I continued to sample S. Australia’s wine treasures at the Mobile McLaren Vale, plus an Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc. Life is hard, I tell you.
A trip to Adelaide would not be complete without catching up with Devlyn and Denny. All those years ago, when T. was just someone I e-mailed on a fiction listserv (remember those?), we got to know Devlyn too, and it’s been great to meet her in person. One of her tattoos reminded me of this saying: “I sleep tonight because an Aussie soldier is awake.”
While we were at Celia and Andrew’s I was able to visit their church in Grange, St. Agnes. It’s a lovely little church building, old by S. Australian standards (1885). There are a number of interesting stained-glass windows, but this was my favorite.
I don’t know the statistics, but I've seen a lot of stained-glass windows in a lot of churches and there aren’t many scenes with two women (but no men). What's more interesting is the biblical story of Mary and Martha being given a very Grange background. Down on the beachfront, you will find the very Victorian terraces that appear in the window of St. Agnes Church.
It was with some regret that we said goodbye to Adelaide. It wasn't hot enough to swim, but we expect lots of heat in the outback. And will we get sunsets like this?